GIANT AFRICAN SNAIL
- Scientific Name: Achatina Fulica
- Common Name: Giant African Snail
When full grown the shell consists of 7 to 9 whirls, with a moderately swollen body whirl, and a sharply comical spine, which is distinctly narrowed but scarcely drawn out at the apex. The shell is brown with reddish-brown and light yellow streaks. The head bears two pairs of tentacles, one short pair for touch, and one longer pair with eyes at the tip.
- LIFE HISTORY
This snail is highly adaptable to a wide range of environments, and can modify its life cycle to suit local conditions and environments.
Snails reach sexual maturity in less than a year. The average snail lives for 5-7 years, but some have been known to live up to 10 years, and reach lengths over 5-7 inches. Eggs are laid in clusters of 100 to 1200, in nests excavated in the soil, or sometimes among moist leaves and stones on the ground. Repeated laying of eggs clutches can occur from a single mating, and the frequency of egg laying depends on the local climate, particularly according to the duration and frequency of the rainy seasons. Periods of drought will prevent or delay feeding activity and reproduction. Therefore according to the climate, individual snails can lay up to well over 1000 per year. Upon emerging from the eggs, the hatchlings will consume their eggshells as well as unhatched siblings, or surrounding organic particles remaining underground for 5 to 14 days. Once out of the nest, the young snails continue to feed on organic and preferred host plants, remaining close to the nest for a couple of weeks. After this time, they will range further afield, each individual intimately establishing a home range within 2 months, feed primarily on plants at night and returning to roost before dawn.
Snails whose shells measure between 5- 30 inches in length appear to cause the most damage to plants. Their food preferences depend on the availability of plant species. Larger snails continue to feed on plant material, but also become increasingly organic feeders as they age.
Giant African Snails are hermaphadites, meaning they posses both male and female reproductive organs. However two snails are still needed for breeding. Mating can last up to five hours.
Food of the African Snail consist of decaying vegetation and animal matter. It has a voracious appetite, recorded to include over 500 different kinds of plants. In Barbados they will include all vegetables, potatoes, onions, horticultural plumbs, and recently discovered, even the bark of some citrus trees. Snails need calcium to keep their shell strong. Barbados coral, limestone formation, therefore provides ample sources for snails to digest viable quantities, ensuring that they shells are strongly constructed, another plus in their reproductive process.
Foods –Peppers, apples, grapes, banana, plumbs, melons, papaya, spinach, beans, corn, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, potatoes, broccoli, cabbage, passion fruit, okra, pumpkins, cassava, radishes, sour sop, yam. A wide variety of horticultural and medicinal plants.
Originally a native of Eastern Africa, it is now present in most of the Pacific and Indian Ocean islands, parts of Western Africa and some islands of the Caribbean- Martinique, Guadeloupe, St. Lucia, Barbados, St. Martin.
For this slow moving animal, natural dispersion is slow. This snail was reportedly first seen n 2000 in the Brandon’s, St. Michael area. The snail is now found in nine out of eleven parishes. It is believed to have been transported by 1) the transportation of local produce, 2) hitch- hikers on containers or pallets from infested area, 3) movement of infested soil.
- PUBLIC HEALTH SIGNIFICANCE
The African Snail carries the rat parasite which can be contracted by ingesting improperly cooked meat or vegetables that the snail has come into contact with, or by handling live snails therefore transferring snail mucus to the human mucus membranes found in the eyes, nose or mouth.
- RISK MANAGEMENT
We therefore must formalise our approach by:
- Identification of the snail.
- Assessment of the infestation levels.
- Clear management processes to:
i. Control spread
ii. Sustain efforts to control spread
iii. Total eradication
Determination methods to be used:
- Communication of above procedures and methods of implementation or control.
- Prevention of importation by greater detection methods at ports of entry especially from countries know to have the pest.
- Continuous bating 8 months after the last sighting of snails to reduce possible hibernation snails re-importation.
- Making the snails a prohibited specie for Barbados.
Everyone must now watch out and report any sightings to the relative authorities.